(On Cable TV, December 2018) I’ve been a big fan of Aardman Studio’s stop-motion animated films, but Early Man is perhaps the first of them to leave me unsatisfied. Despite the outstanding technical polish of the animation, the film takes a very long time to come in focus. As we’re thrust into a comic portrayal of a prehistoric civilization, the gags feel lacking, and the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere for a while. When it does, it’s a disappointment because Early Man reveals itself to be … a football/soccer comedy. (The title can mean “Early Manchester,” as in the British football team.) From that point on, it becomes obvious that the film is made by and for football fans: it becomes an underdog sports comedy and despite the setting the plot and comedy become very familiar, which is not Aardman’s trademark. (Or is it? Because as I write this, it occurs to me that Aardman’s signature successes have been to put the familiar in an unfamiliar setting—WW2 POW Camp escape for poultry in Chicken Run, and Horror Movie tropes in kid’s animal clothing for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.) While the result is surely sympathetic, it does stay far more ordinary than I would have liked. No one’s perfect, I guess—but I’m still looking forward to the next Aardman film.